By Henry Tamburin
“One warm evening in Las Vegas, a young man was walking on the famed Strip, contemplating what had just happened. He was a good card counter; he could count down a deck of cards accurately in 20 seconds flat and knew his strategy deviations cold. At his level of skill, he had nearly a 1% edge over the casinos, meaning he was capable of winning more than he would lose over his lifetime of playing blackjack. Yet, moments earlier, he had been barred from playing. An experienced professional card counter told him several days later, ‘Son, you know how to beat the game but you haven’t learned how to beat the casino.’ I know the facts of this story so well because I was that young man.”
Those sage words, “Son, you know how to beat the game but you haven’t learned how to beat the casino,” resonated in my brain for many days after my first barring. Yes, I could count down a deck of cards in 20 seconds. Yes, I could make the right bet and the right play depending on the count, even in a noisy casino atmosphere. I had invested a lot of time and practice to become a competent, successful blackjack card counter. However, the pro was right: no matter how skillful I was at card counting, if the casinos would not let me play, all my card-counting skills were for naught.
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